Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Renaissance Day Oman: In case you are wondering, what exactly Renaissance day is, it is the day His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos ibn Said took over from his father, Sultan Taimur. This happened on July 23rd, 1970. This move effectively ended the country's isolation and began the phase of using Oman's oil revenue for modernization and development: i.e. universal education, healthcare, and the building of roads and infrastructure such as water and sewers. A lot has changed in Oman since the 70s, even since the early 90s, most of it for the better in terms of access to health, education, and improved living conditions for many wilayats (towns).

And since we are not likely to be posting again until well after Eid, please enjoy your last few nights of Ramadan, and have a lovely and safe Eid holiday:).

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Ramadan... liking Jotun's "Colours of Happiness" intitiative

If one reads Y magazine Extreme Makeover | Y - Pulse of Oman, they already did a report on Jotun's (the paint company) new socially responsible initiative "Colours of Happiness" . If you haven't heard about it, it was the makeover of one underprivillaged Omani family's home.

It was a beautiful gesture, although more could be done to expand upon this type of charity such as is done with Habitat for Humanity Int'l. Back in my home country one could volunteer their time and work to help build or restore homes for those who need them or the underprivellaged. I would like to see this sort of intiative expand in Oman and if anyone knows anything more by way of Jotun or other companies in Oman ect... for volunteers to help out it would be lovely to share here in the comments.

Thank you.

Making Hijrah (i.e moving for Islamic reasons) to Oman?: OPNO's thoughts

One of the questions our inbox fills up with the most is, should I make hijrah to Oman with my family/can you girls/OPNO tell me more about whether or not I should make hijrah to the Sultanate of Oman?

To the expats who are not Muslims readings this, hijrah is migration or moving for Islamic reasons. The Qu'ran tells Muslims that they do not have to stay somewhere where they are being hurt or persecuted, and may move to somewhere safer to make their lives. Islam doesn't require suffering for God/Allah. It is about service and devotion, and striving for the sake of, which is different than suffering for the sake of. Suffering for the sake of suffering is actually a notion our religion preached against.

The first early Muslim-followers of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) migrated from Mecca (where they were being tortured and killed and economically and socially segregated through sanctions enforced by the Quraysh tribe {which was, in many cases, their own tribe}) to Madinah, in what is now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia didn't exist as it does now. Many of the early Muslims recieved reward, the Qu'ran says, for making this migration, as when they did so, it was to be able to practice their religion without fear of torture or without having to hide their faith.

Many people say I made hijrah when I moved to Oman. I don't really think of it like that per say...

In my own country, Canada, I openly practiced Islam. I went to friday prayers at the Mosque, learned to read Arabic, bought Islamic books online, wore abaya, hijab, and even niqab. I fasted, I could make umrah, and apply for Islamic loans which were actually more Islamic in structure than the Islamic banks here in Oman... I was not tortured, and I could practice my religion. I went to school. I had a job.

That's not to say, that any of that was not a struggle. I am an out-going person, who at soul, is a fighter. I used to also be patient and idealistic. That's worn off now, but being put down upon by others' ignorance is never anything I allowed on myself or others'.
Young Canadian men did rip off my scarf, a group of men threatened to rape me {because of my dress}, I had a pop can filled with pop (like a rock) thrown at my head, and people constantly {especially women} decided I was intellectually inferior to them because of my beliefs. I got told to move to Saudi Arabia very often (usually by people who had been in the country less time than my own ancestors...who were some of the earliest Europeans to settle there). Usually, none of this bothered me. Like I said, I am a fighter. I felt sorry for these people. That they knew or allowed themselves to know so little of the world.

Then one day, one woman, simply refused to be served "by people like me" and that broke me down. I don't know why. that one woman's simple, non-violent prejudice, broke me, but it did.

I decided, why the hell not move to Saudi Arabia?

The reason is, there is no such thing as an Islamic country. There is no truly Islamic government (unless you somehow think Iran is one... and I don't since they don't elect according to the best qualified and their courts are a mess--- not truly Shariah, and they don't handle non-Muslims the way Shariah should). Saudi and Afghanistan are horrible examples... Neither country's governments are run on Shariah law---only claim to be, taking whatever portions of shariah law as they see fit or beneficial to their ruling parties.

Even some of the earliest Islamic governments are not Islamic, historically, since they favoured a tribe or family or bloodline over the tenents of Islam, which were always, that the best qualified should run the government.

I guess that's why Oman looks attractive to some, getting back to the questions we OPNO girls are asked.
Oman is a Muslims majority country. That means, if anyone tries to pull off your scarf here, or doesn't allow you to work, ect... they get in trouble with the police.

They also [currently----who knows about the future], nicely support a lot of non-Muslim rights in understanding to Islam, so that Islam is not forced upon others in terms of dress and behaviour. Which I prefer personally, to Iran or Saudi Arabia where I'd feel hypocritical in faith to the way it is enforced.

But that being said, Muslim majority doesn't necessarily mean Islamic. In fact, the Muslim communities I was in touch with in Canada were more visibly practicing than the majority of Muslims here. Here Islam can be confused with culture, and tribal and family considerations override Islamic notions often and in many cases. Marriage is one (racism abounds). Legally, many things are not according to Shariah law (although there is a shariah basis).

In terms of general safety, Oman is pretty safe.

But when it comes to creepy guys per say, abaya and hijab doesn't protect one like it does in Canada, where abaya made me feel like a Princess by most Canadian guys (not the hick prejudiced neo nazi ones of course, but they are a minority). I am serrious. There, what I wore meant I was looked at for my thoughts and actions, not what I looked like. Here, it doesn't have that power, and it means "female", not necessarily always a good thing. Here female behaviour is still tribally a source of "honour" as pathetic as that is, although the government has tried to make headways into changing these pre-Islamic mindsets.

I personally, don't know what this means for my daughter. I'd like her to grow up with the Canadian/British-convert Muslimah ideal of what a female is supposed to be in terms of society, yet be as legally protected as she is to practice her faith as she is by the Omani government at this time without all the tribal-jahiliyia mumbo-jumbo.
I would like her to see races and nations as extensions of herself, something beautiful, to marvel at, to know about, not to derive borders and barriers from, or be afraid of, or to be faced with legal or familial sanctions on.

If you are thinking of moving to Oman for Islamic reasons, know that Oman is still segregated on nations and races. Passports are not given fully based on merit, nor are marriage permissions. Visas can be difficult, limited for single females, investments depend on sponsorship in most cases, and shariah law is not the basis of all laws... Corruption exists here in government, there is no true election system (Sultan Qaboos is, in many, things, pretty awesome, but not even he would ever try to label himself a Caliph).

The country is an Ibadhi majority (which the majority of Muslims worldwide are not). Still, the shiite community here is very well treated compared to Iraq and Bahrain... So I'd think about it if I was Shia for sure, not willing to consider Iran a good example.

The economy in Oman is rocky. It is not fully developed to the point it can support itself without oil reserves, and policies favouring Omanis doens't always ensure even that aim...

Education is expensive if you are not Omani (and relatively of poor quality if you are Omani). Healthcare is also expensive if you are not Omani. If you are not Omani, there are only certain places where you can buy and own property. These are things to consider.

Sure, there are Qu'ran schools, Mosques, and abaya retailers. There are public holidays for Eids, and reduced working hours for Ramadan.

But that to me, does not make Oman ideal for hijrah. In many ways, Canada could be just as Islamic in principle, although perhaps a little less safe (though Muslims I know from Toronto always subscribe to love for that city).
I'd probably advise UAE (one of the smaller Emirates like Sharjah or Ras Al Khaimah) if one was looking for a legally and economically sound Muslim majority Khaleeji country to immigrate to that suited my means and education, or even sections of U.K. if you had the income, or Malaysia, if Khaleej wasn't your thing.

But there is no Islamic country, or Medinah of the early days, to make hijrah to anymore.

I chose Oman because I love it here. I have the patience for the prejudice I do encounter. I can stand and fight here, if I have to. My income is enough, as per the cost of living, but then, I am not living your average expat immigrant to Oman situation, as my husband is Omani and other OPNO girls all make well over the average expat salary for Oman being PHDs or successful business owners. I don't think I can advise others to move.

I chose Oman randomly, after I realized UAE  (Abu Dhabi at least) didn't suit the person I wanted to be as a career woman. I'd had history here. The culture, which will never be my own, is ingrained in my psyche. I can leave the bad, keep the good.

I think often, in the concept of hijrah, of the kind of woman I want my daughter to become. I think of what society or a nation ingrains into her consiousness. I decided I want her to be a citizen of the world, and be learned enough to follow Islam of the earliest history, not of consequent generations of fatwas of muftis and sheikhs of today. She must learn Arabic for that, so any Arabic country can provide that. She must also travel, to be aware of Allah's creation, not man's interpretation of its meaning. Oman is our base. It is not ideal, it is not Islamic, it is not even safe at all times, or sure in politics or economics, but it is simply the base.

My only advice would be, is hijrah is impossible. Making a better world around you, is possible in some places, at certain times, considering political, economic, social, and Islamic factors. Making yourself better, is possible, anywhere, at any time.

That's all I've got. Sorry for the long rambling post.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Restaurants in Oman: Al Makan Cafe for Iftar Tent, 2014

Al Makan Cafe right next to City Center Seeb mall, always pitches a nice looking iftar tent for Ramadan. I went this year with my husband and two year old daughter for iftar.

There was a large assortment of spreads in the buffet, but all in all, the food was as good as the food at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital cafeteria at lunch time. I am serrious. And I have had good buffets from Al Makan before (they catered for one former friend's wedding and it was pretty decent then). However, I really didn't enjoy anything much this time, although I could eat my fill.

The price for two adults was 18 OMR. Which is really too steep for general low-quality buffet food. Also, apparently the price is lower for the actual iftar, but they charge an entrance fee to the tent (which they didn't do last year) which made it so high. The entrance fee should include chocolates which are only served later in the evening.

Iftar starts around 6:50 and the chocolates are given out at 8:30 or something like that. So one has to stay long time to make that entrance fee worth whatever its cost (if it is worth it I don't know, we didn't stick around).

Part of Ramadan is, that Muslims have to pray, so if the dining experience should be all evening, prayer facilities simply have to be better...

As it was, we left, to go pray and have the rest of our evening somewhere else well before 8:00 pm. In the end, we splurged for coffee and milkshakes at Fauchon at the Opera Galleria (with complimentary chocolates for the two year old) and ran around the Opera House grounds playing with a bouncy ball with the two year old. I doubt she would have maintained her good behaviour up until 9:00 at Al Makan, despite the pretty lights and lanterns there...

So that's definately the last time I go to Al Makan for iftar unless they change the food to be better, or the prices to be lower.

Restaurants in Oman: Grand Fish Market in Seeb/Al Mawaleh near City Center Mall, for Iftar 2014

I don't eat fish... or seafood, ever. But this restaurant is beloved by my Omani husband and my Canadian father for its relatively low priced seafood, and quiet but efficient and friendly service. Also, the giant fish tanks (absuredly clean) with turtles and shiny scaled fishies situated right next to the tables make a welcome distraction for the two-year old so we can sit down and enjoy the food.

An average meal here for two people costs 15.000 OMR. The iftar buffest for two plus the two year old was 16 omr... and the buffet included different kinds of fish, three different soups (husband and two-year old love the shrimp soup), plus rice and vegetables and usual iftar snacks like samboosa, fatoush salad, tabouli salad, homous dip ect... My husband thought it well worth it. He likes spices however, and I'm told the spices on everything but the cod tend to be very Omani in flavour. I cannot comment, as I tried absolutely nothing, but the salads were good (not mind boggling but good). The menu also has chicken tikka when it is not Ramadan, so that's what I normally would order. It tastes fine to me. With tikka I am not picky. I find it pretty much the same everywhere so long as it isn't overly greasy ect.... and it tastes like good chicken tikka here. Anyways....

I find the decor odd but pleasant (too many styles for my taste) but as I said, the fish tanks when one has kids, totally make up for it. Omani Cuisine also did a review (a fish-eater) which is probably better than mine here (the photo I have used belongs to that blog---I only have photos of the fish tanks taken by a two year old so....). You'll find directions on his site. If I gave you directions you'd probably get lost.

Restaurants in Oman: Pizza Hut in Al Hail, Seeb, for Iftar 2014

If you are like me, with Omani inlaws from the interior, then you will know that people tend to force you to go to pizza hut. It is, as Italian as they get (besides Chillis). This is probably because there are so few good restaurants out by way of Nizwa... that Pizza hut seems classy. I don't know. Usually I have terrible experiences at Pizza hut (its a chain) in Oman, but the other night, in Al Hail branch, I had a good experience.
The service was amazingly good (the staff listened to us, didn't screw anything up, and had five star politeness going on). They held the doors open for us, didn't make us wait on anything and yet didn't hover. All in all, better than many other restaurants in the capital. I was surprised. The decor in the branch was also very new, and clean, so I liked that. They had family seating suitable to jealous Omani husbands (you know, wooden boxed off cages with doors {stylish despite the confinement I might add;D}, suitable to Interior families not used to Muscat) and also, normal seating, so that gave me options on who I could go with here. For example, my mother-in-law would probably wear a face covering (not even eyes showing---niqab isn't normal for use but wearing a scarf over one's face to Carrrefour is) if I treated her to a normal seated restaurant. But family rooms, and she feels very at ease.
My husband liked that the salad bar was clean (no hovering flies like a few other pizza hut locations---ewww gross) and I liked the general service. I've had terrible service experiences at Pizza huts in Muscat and Sohar and even Nizwa... but Nizwa I let slide because there's so few nice options out there that aren't tikka or kebab or burgers and rice.
I liked my blue lagoon drink. I however, hate the new lasagna format (it looks bigger but is merely a two layer noodle excuse for a lasagna). It is cheap and not lasagna so I will never order that again. My two year old loves the alfredo, and I can live with the pizza (which the Al Hail location actually does let one customize unlike some other branches). However, my daughter's "tutti fruiti" drink looked nothing like the picture on the menu... That's all I can say for the food. It is pizza hut afterall.
However, they did have a very affordable buffet for iftar that consisted of hummous, muttubel, breads, samboosa, drinks, coffee, three kinds of pastas, three salads, and two kinds of pizza. It was around 4-5 rials per person, so very affordable. I didn't try anything but the coffee being I ordered a pizza and lasagna but everyone else seemed very happy with it. (Also, the delivery for this location is way less of a cheat than the Al Khoud Pizza hut----which totally sent orders without all the food in the dishes to more than one person I know)... So, here's to hoping the lovely ladies at Pizza hut Al Hail, Seeb, stay as happy and smiling as they are whenever I have met them... they truly made what is otherwise a blah dining experience for me, a really happy one.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Ramadan Beauty Regime

Okay, so I am not a 'beauty person'. I can barely part my own hair, never pay to go to spas or salons or get my makeup professionally done, and I am certainly not one of those idiots who think of fasting Ramadan as a kind of diet. Because it is not. But I do find during Ramadan, I tend to eat healthier, and also, I am pretty tired, so I give up on make-up. So, in a way, it is a time to take advantage of that, a detox per say.
 First thing I do is recharge via drinking ALOT of water after magraib. But not only water. I like to raspberry or strawberry yogurt smoothies to recharge, both for suhoor and iftar. Full of anitoxidents (so the beauty people say) I find these concotions keep me less thirsty through-out the day, and help improve my skin in general, which has a tendency to look tired from the time we are supposed to stay up for praying at night, and for getting up in the morning to make sure my family prays and has suhoor, ect.... Frozen berries and plain yogurt from Carrfour.
 I like raspberries. They remind me of summer and home, and in Oman they are dreadfully over-priced. However, I saw this mud mask facial at H&M for 1.5 rial and bought it while I was bored waiting in the line. I loved it. It smelt wonderful, made my skin all dewey, pores clean.... And I smellt good for hours. Of course I scared the heck out of my husband and two-year old daughter while I left it one for 15 minutes, but hey, husband was fasting so being ugly, meh, and daughter thought it was cool after approximately five minutes. Only thing is I had to apply a little moisturizer after, but other than that, it was perfect on my skin type.
I brush my teeth while fasting. Unless one purposefully swallow toothpaste (loser) out of sheer hunger than it doens't break one's fast. I discovered that I love for this brand, that my daughter actually through into the cart when we were shopping (we didn't notice until it was already on the bill at the check out. Awesome toothpaste though, very mild, work greats, and the kid actually can tolerate using it, unlike Crest or Colgate. I got this one at Lulu I think.
 Now, I am one of those who believe prayer doens't count if one doesn't make wudu and that nailpolish voids wudu. However, this was a little treat I bought myself (12 OMR) after successfully managing a day's fast. If I go out somehwere fancy for iftar with my husband I put it on. Yes, yes, I know, I have to take it off to pray after, but that's my kind of high maitenance. I do have the patience even to chip of my polish in the wudu area of prayer halls should my kid throw my protable nailpolish rmeover pads out the window of the car on the highway. I love nailpolish THAT much. My husband likes the modest colour of "Yacht" the shade I got, since he is Omani, and a total weirdo when it comes to other people notcing anything different about me. God forbid hot pink or raspberry nailpolish is noticed by our waiter, like oh no, the man will fantasize about my nails for the rest of the evening.... I highly doubt it. Moving on....
Another treat was some blush, since, well, people ask me if I am sick if I don't wear make-up since I am the palest fish ever,  and I am lazy in the morning. Without blusher I require eye-shadoe and lipstick. This colour, "553 cocktail peach" is the same shade as my natural colouring, so it works well for me without anything else.

Both Dior products were purchased from Areej.

The only other beauty thing I might so is, instead of using mascara, dip and old, cleaned mascara wand that I have saved, and use it in castor oil. Usually I am far too lazy for that.

STYLISH SISTERS: Latifa Al Shamsi, original abaya-clad Khaleeji fashion blogger, and founder of Queen L Designs

I first stumbled onto Latifa Al Shamsi's blog latifalshamsi over two years ago, pretty much from this date. She is an Emirati fashion blogger who really began the trend of photgraphing the outfit-of-the-day posts while wearing abaya and not showing her face. Her collection of beautiful designer abayas, and penchant for Kelly and Birkin Hermes bags, Louboutin shoes, along with Van Cleef and Arpels rings and bracelets makes her blog unique, because the majority of women in the world, abaya-clad or not, cannot afford to dress that way.
Seeing high fashion paired with the abaya was really interesting and eye-opening to the non-Muslim online fashion set, and is pure fantasy/indulgence in eye-candy for yours truly. However, Latifa's personality is super-sweet and down to earth, and although she's probably one of the most heavily branded women on the planet, she absolutely comes across and individual and caring. Beyond her interests in fashion and food, charities and Ramadan activities are always on her radar, along with photos of street scenes in Europe.
My favourite section of her blog however, are always her family Eid fashion photos. Her individuality lead her to found her own label "Queen L" designs, and her blog is a pretty good guide to where to shop, and eat in Dubai. While I haven't had the chance to personally meet Latifa yet, I hope to one day, just to be able to say that I have met the original English-blog Khaleeji OOTD innovator. If Latifa ever reads my blog, if she is ever in Muscat, I totally invite her out for my guide to shopping in Muscat, and coffee and macaroons;) so we can go over our mutually-shared Dior Lady Bag obsession.
To follow her on instgram: latifalshamsi's Profile • Instagram

My last weekend, in photos: renting a farm in Oman for privacy

I spent this last weekend relaxing in cool shade and privacy, wearing sparkling caftans, and not having to wear a headscarf at anytime of day except for prayer times. I swam in the morning, and I swam at night. My daughter and I swung on swings, and picked dates and flowers. In short, we rented a farm, which totally made my Ramadan a really special experience, since the days before this last weekend were so hectic. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I hope they make you feel as relaxed as the actual experience enamoured me to feel.
kid's swimming pool, which made me feel safe as a parent
Luban/frankinsence tree
My daughter's farm style: she dressed herself
There actually are more photos but I will add them when I get the information for contacting this particular farm's owner. The reservation was not made through myself, although the cost was 120 OMR to rent from 8pm until the following day.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Intolerance and Prejudice Against Non-Muslims/Expatriates in Oman

Being that it is Ramadan, I have been reading posts written by non-Muslims living in Oman, on blogger, twitter, instagram, what have you, exhorting other non-Muslim expatriates to be tolerant of Muslim religious traditions as far as abstaining from eating and drinking in public or chewing gum, ect....

Which makes me reflect on tolerance from the Omani end. Omanis generally consider me to fall in that end (the Omani end) since I officially have a tribe, an Omani husband and Omani kidlet, and am Muslim (was that in my own country before marriage as well). I am an abaya-wearing girl, this is not my first Ramadan, and basically that is all it takes I guess, for me to be considered on one side or another.

But I see tolerance differently. Tolerance in Oman is not exactly as I experienced as a non-Muslim teenager hanging around Ras Al Hamra/Qurum in the 90s.

When I was a teen I never got evil eyes from Omani women even though I wore clothes that were too tight, or too short to be properly respectful. I got friendly, albeit shy smiles. The women who worked in the caftan/sparkly jalabiyia stores always enjoyed dressing me up in the brightest pink creation they could find, or showing me how to wrap a scarf. Egyptian vendors in the malls gave me a free caftan once simply telling me it was free so that I could wear it. A woman once gave me the abaya she was wearing simply because I had complimented it.

No one ever told me I looked better that way (covered) or that I should cover or had to or was something bad if I didn't. No one acted as if I deserved disrespect or bad thoughts because I didn't cover, though of course, some Omani men remained creeps, staring or whistling or trying (in the lamest words strung together into lines in the histroy of the English language) to hit on me. 

[That said I must insert here: Canadian guys in my hometown were even farther towards the jerk end of the pool, being that they judged many women as being unattractive or undeserving of respect or kindness because she was not pretty enough for their unrealistic standards. They generally avoided me because I dressed like I had money and was from another place (my family was) and was thus out of their league and not likely to settle in town anyways. But I saw how unrealistic beauty standards affected a lot of my Canadian girlfriends. In their mid twenties now, they have just grown out of caring what small town Canadian boys think;) and that was a long battle hard-won. One girl was anorexic, another hypersexualized, another yet set herself low standards and accepted men who abused her simply out of being told for so long she was undeserving of love even though to me, she kind of looks like a supermodel.]

The only intolerance I ever saw in Oman I guess was in Nizwa, where some small boys hurled pebbles at my mother who WAS wearing short shorts in front of masjid/Mosque, bent over trying to photograph it. My mother never understood or cared to understand Omani or Muslim culture and STILL tries to lecture me about both as if she knew anything about either. Expat prejudice against Omanis I experienced as a child here as well, you could say.

That was it. Omani women invited us places. To weddings, to their homes... and Omani guys generally understood our culture and weren't creepy (even to my mother in her bikin sunbathing in the yard). Suburban posted about some of the same guys I knew here and it made me smile to hear of them remembered like that I mean, I am sure she knew ones I didn't. There wasn't just one shift. But I'll fondly remember Ghareeb's long-lasting and totally respectful crush on my little sister (he still asks about her and if she became a Muslim or anything and still can't afford to marry), Nasser telling us about Islam only when we asked about it, KH telling us about Islam but being so upfront, like 'yeah, that's what Muslims SHOULD do, so don't look to us to be examples because we are baaaaad muslims'. Ahmad trying to teach my mother how to break-dance and camel dance and inviting us to the coolest, coolest Bedouin stuff ever, like, weird desert races, weddings, and poetry recitations/ screaming competitions.

That was Oman before I moved here to live, permanently, and actually put myself into Omani culture.

I'd always kind of planned to put myself into Sharqiyah Region or Zanzibari culture, since the Omanis I had known had been from those cultures. Like, for example, my old landlord, Waleed.

Nicest man who ever lived, I swear. When my work stopped paying me did he ask for me to move since I couldn't pay him... Or hound me for overdue rent?

No. He swung by to make sure my ac was cleaned, to make my shower more posh (he put in a glass surround) and told me to just pay him back when I could.

His wife and sisters, even though they saw those same security dudes swinging by to visit me, never judged me to be bad Muslim. [PDO security guys brought me food, and told me about job openings thye'd heard of]. Waleed's wife and sisters, they knew I hadn't paid rent for two months so what did they do?

They invited me for dinner. They tried to force food on me. They asked to drive me places. They kindly asked me if I wanted to get married. They'd look for someone good for me. Not just some reject passport hunter or loser (that's most Arab ladies btw, when they are fixing to fix one up).

When I was deciding IF I should remarry my ex-husband or accept a difficult proposal to the Omani man I am married to now, Waleed totally acted like the father I never had. He spoke to both men on my behalf to guage their characters. Gave me fatherly advice. Told me I didn't need to get married just to support myself and not be strain on him and his family. To take my time.

THAT'S TOLERANCE btw, because to all appearences (as a Muslim) I was a sick guy magnet who was too lame to get a job or visa or pay rent. That's kindness.

That's Islam, how it treats people whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.

I haven't been seeing that kind of tolerance lately. I guess I haven't visited Waleed's family, and I guess I am married into Dakhliyia/Interior Region culture...

My husband argued with me the other day about the majority of tolerant or intolerant people where he is from.

I agree, there are so many great Muslims from where my husband is from who generally want to give a good impression to non-Muslims and expats about themselves.

But there are so many others who are ignorant of the Islamic manners they should have and simply expect others to conform to their way of life or have it forced upon them. Or they are proud and think their ways are the best/most Islamic ever and everyone else with anything different is less than them or wrong. I see this in Muscat as well, from the highest, most educated Omanis, and it makes me sick and sad and filled with loathing, although during Ramadan, I should be filled with hope.

That makes me genuinely sad (prejudice and intolerance against non-Muslims in Oman) since I have lived as a Muslim woman in a non-Muslim country and felt the sting of intolerance and the cruelty of prejudice and prejudgements there acutely. Omanis here who have never travelled cannot imagine. They would change if they knew, if they experienced it.

I can never wash it off. How horrible that was, it lingers, and changed me. My patience and will to show others good will and treat them how I would want to be treated if I too was raised to be ignorant or cruel is gone. I have no patience. I get angry.

I miss my old self, before prejudice made me less kind and harder and tired, and more self-involved than idealistic and actively driven to better my society.

Prejudice is an understanding of something or someone you know nothing of. Intolerance is expecting your ways or thoughts or beliefs to be shared or forced or tolerated by people who do not understand or hold the same. Both ruin all that is good and could make great another human being.

In Islam the Qu'ran states that there is no compulsion in religion. That means Islamic beliefs and rules cannot and should not be forced on non-Muslims. They should choose for themselves.

I think no non-Muslim should have to refrain from the appearence of eating or drinking on my behalf, or chewing gum (what utter silliness). I don't think they should have to wear abaya or headscarf to be deemed respectful of my religion and culture. I don't even think they have to be stopped from drinking alochol or having their churches. If my way is the right one, people will seek it. They will ask about it, I don't even have to tell them, unless they deign to understand it. That to me is Islam. In Islam, I can be strict with myself. That is the best way, one of inner reflection, inner striving, for the true testament of faith is in one's own intentions and manners/deeds, not contained by what is imparted on the whole of one's society/country through any will but the individial (which Muslims believe is God-given).

I certainly would never have looked kindly enough on the strange and alien "Islam" if the Muslims I had met in Oman had been prejudiced or intolerant people. That is something to remember this Ramadan, and while I certainly hope no one suffers intolerance or prejudice as I have in order to become better human beings, I would like to see change, and I suppose experience is the greatest forbearer of change.

{Sorry for the terribly long post.}

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

While searching for a farm house to rent over the weekend I stumbled upon this lovely villa for rent by Isobel... and I didn't save the link but I found it on homeaway. I will post the photos simply because it reminds me of expat living in Ras Al Hamra in the 90s;). Beautiful tones of the Gulf water, with pink bougainvilla, and the rocky Omani hills jutting into the coastline....

Of course, Bandar Al Jissah IS more posh.... and PDO housing totally only had a view from the bedrooms of our British neighbors fixing their ancient old jeep but.... ;).